Armed Pilots, Why Not Armed Teachers?

While many are dismissing the suggestion – perhaps in part because it was voiced by President Trump – that armed teachers might be useful not just in halting school shooting attacks once they have begin, but perhaps more importantly by deterring would-be school shooters, many programs in which teachers are permitted to be armed with conventional firearms or even defensive irritant sprays are in operation and are apparently successful, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

Indeed, at least 8 states already permit teachers under certain circumstances to carry firearms, and in another 6 legislation to permit the practice has already been introduced.

Banzhaf suggested that not forcing teachers who already possess concealed carry weapon [CCW] permits to leave their guns behind when they enter their school could be an effective strategy, especially in rural communities where it may take 30 minutes or more for armed law enforcement officials to reach an active shooter scene, and where voters are more accepting of guns.

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As the Washington Examiner noted, “Banzhaf said that ‘considering [permitting some teachers to remain armed] is the least communities can do and that Trump’s idea should be on the table. . . . I’m also making the point to many who almost re-flexibly oppose Trump and everything he says that this general concept may have some merit and may deserve some kind of trial.'”

Banzhaf is regarded by many as a liberal rather than as a conservative or a gun enthusiast, and says he was pleasantly surprised to find that this idea is already in effect and has been proven to be successful.

Banzhaf was also apparently the only public figure to suggest that teachers who were unwilling to carry guns for any one of many reasons might be willing to use a defensive spray to stop or at least deter a school shooter. Here’s how the Examiner reported it.

“What’s more, said George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf, it could work even if the weapon is mace and not a gun. John Banzhaf is a public interest law professor known for his victories regarding smoking, obesity, discrimination, safety, and environmental protection. ‘While most would agree that even a small, light, and easily concealed handgun is many times more likely to stop a student shooter, a highly irritating chemical able to stop a grizzly and capable of being sprayed 20 or more feet is far more effective than attacking an armed shooter with chairs, backpacks, or even computer cables as some have suggested,’ he wrote in a memo Friday.”

Banzhaf said that he was encouraged to find that such irritant spray devices, developed specifically to deal with a school shooter situations, and including some capable to being kept locked in a classroom or administrative office, are in operation and already available for use by others.

Fairview R-XI School District in West Plains, Mo. began having a few of its teachers armed after 20 first-graders were killed in 2012 at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

While Trump claimed that an effective school program would have some 20%-40% of its teachers armed, Banzhaf suggested that, once it was generally announced, a program with as few as 1 or 2 secretly armed teachers might be enough to deter a would-be shooter, even those willing to commit “suicide by cop,” since there’s little “glory” or “honor” in being shot by a History teacher.

Fairview apparently agrees, since the school district does not reveal which teachers may be armed, and it is only one of some 20 Missouri schools with such effective programs.

Texas provides another example of successful teacher-with-guns programs. Participating schools designate marshals who are permitted to carry guns after taking active-shooter training.

The schools also apparently agree with Banzhaf that deterrence may be even more important than stopping an attack already under way, and that keeping the identity and number of armed teachers secret is important. Here’s how Politico described the system.

“It’s not clear how many marshals there are because it is a secret force. The few districts that are thought to have authorized them typically won’t even say they have done so – so gunmen can’t target them. Students don’t know if their teacher is a marshal. Neither do parents. It’s based on the theory of secret flight marshals – which Trump has also referenced.”

Politico might have added that an even better analogy is to the current federal program under which commercial pilots [Federal Flight Deck Officers] who wish to do so may carry firearms while flying to deter terrorism or, if necessary, stop terrorists. They are all volunteers.

While some claim that teachers should not be armed because their major responsibility is teaching and not law enforcement, pilots who participate in the program would challenge that limited view, noting that their primary responsibility is flying the airplane, not law enforcement.

Arming pilots also undercuts the argument that nobody but experts should be permitted to use a gun in crowded situations such as those which might exist if, for example, a shooter enters a classroom. Any situation in which a pilot would have to use a handgun during flight is almost always much more crowded, and with many more people at risk, than in a school shooting situation.

Moreover, arming pilots also shows that limiting them to rounds which do not penetrate – something which could be catastrophic at 30,000 feet – is possible for school shooting situations also. It also shows that those who carry guns need not be dead-eye marksmen.

CNN, the Dallas News, and many other responsible media outlets have also held up Texas as a model showing that permitting some teachers to be armed can be done safety and effectively.

Banzhaf, noting that many teachers who might be reluctant to actually carry or use firearms or to employ deadly force, but who nevertheless might want to be able to protect themselves or their charges from a shooter if necessary, suggested that teachers and school administrators be permitted to carry defensive (Mace-like) spray devices, or at least have them available in a classroom.

After all, he argued, some are quite capable of stopping even an enraged grizzly bear, and of being projected more than 20 feet.

He now reports that several K-12 schools, colleges, and even religious organizations in Ohio have shown that self defense sprays can be a non-lethal alternative to guns in stopping or even just deterring an active shooter. Many use an especially intense law-enforcement strength of red pepper gel which projects up to 25 feet, and the canister which requires little in the way of aiming ability.

Interestingly, the red gel is designed to coat and cling to gas masks, goggles, or glasses, at least obscuring the vision of shooters who might try to protect themselves from conventional police tear gas, and keeping the strong irritant in very close proximity to their faces.

Since the devices are too big to be carried comfortably on one’s person, schools or even individual teachers can purchase the spray canisters from SafeZone enclosed in a small safe which can be bolted to a wall in a classroom. A teacher can open it easily by pushing a few buttons in the correct sequence; something which can be done even in the dark or if a teacher is temporarily blinded, able to use only one hand, etc.

So, says Banzhaf, parents and teachers truly concerned about the threat of school shootings have a number of alternatives. First, they can ask their states, municipalities, school districts, and even individual schools to permit at least a few teachers to carry concealed firearms under appropriate circumstances, similar to the policies which have been tested in Missouri and Texas. Indeed, in many states, there may be no law specifically prohibiting it, especially if the teacher is already authorized to carry a concealed gun.

Also, since many teachers may be reluctant to carry a deadly firearm, concerned parents might encourage their child’s school to install safes containing the non-lethal incapacitating gel which can be quickly opened by teachers, including those who might not be willing to use lethal force even to stop a school shooter.

Indeed, parents might even want to chip in together to buy a gel canister, protected against tampering in a safe, to be mounted in their child’s classroom; a potentially life saving gift for both teacher and child.